Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gospel of the Kingdom

We have been considering in a series of postings the importance of the Trinity to the ordinary Christian. We have considered love, fellowship, obedience, forsakenness, submission, and atonement. The Trinity is vital to all of these. We saw that without the Trinity, love and the atonement are abolished. Love and atonement are not things a one-person god can do.

We reached the point of saying, “The Trinity shows humility, and humility shows the Trinity.” We considered the Humility of the Father. The Father exalts the Son, not himself. We will consider the humility of Jesus and the Spirit.

To see the humility of Jesus, however, it is helpful to set the facts of his voluntary humiliation in context. An important part of the context is this: the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom. This posting provides this context for future postings.

400 Years of Silence

Between the Old and New Testaments, between Malachi and Matthew there are 400 years of silence. God never said anything to Israel. Suddenly John the Baptist appeared. Through John, these are the first words from God in four centuries: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2)

When John was put into prison, Jesus began preaching. These are the first words publicly preached by the long-awaited Messiah: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)

How Jesus Divides the Word of God

“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached.” (Lk 16:6)

What Jesus Preached

Jesus explained the seed in the parable of the sower. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” (Mt 13:19).

Jesus’ most famous sermon is the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the Beatitudes. They begin and end with the kingdom. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:10)

Between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus taught his disciples. What he taught them was the kingdom. “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)

What the Twelve and Seventy-Two Preached

Jesus sent out the Twelve. “He called the twelve together and … sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:1-2)

Jesus sent out the Seventy-Two. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. ... Whenever you enter a town ... say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Lk 9:1-2, 9)

What the Apostles Preached

After his ascension, Jesus sent the Apostles. They preached the kingdom. Here are examples:

  • Phillip in Samaria – “When they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.” (Acts 8:12)
  • Paul for 3 months in Ephesus – “He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
  • Paul for 2 years in Rome at the end of his life – “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:30-31)

What the Parables are About

Typically, a parable of Christ is a parable of the kingdom.

  • The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (Mt 13:24)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. (Mt 13:31)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like leaven. (Mt 13:33)
  • The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. (Mk 4:26)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. (Mt 13:44)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. (Mt 13:45)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet.t (Mt 13:47)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. (Mt 18:23)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. (Mt 20:1)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son. (Mt 22:2)
  • The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (Mt 25:1)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country. (Mt 25:14)

How Jesus Rates the Importance of the Kingdom

Jesus rates the importance of the kingdom highly.

  • It is what we are to seek first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Mt 6:33)
  • It is more important than burying our dead. “Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’” (Lk 9:60)
  • It is where history is going; the end of the world is keyed to preaching the kingdom in all the world. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt 24:14)

We Must Be Born Again, but Why?

The purpose of being born again is so that we can see and enter the kingdom.

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'' Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'' Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:3-5)

We Must Be Converted, but Why?

The purpose of being converted is so that we can enter the kingdom

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:4)

What the Thief on the Cross Wanted

The kingdom is what the thief on the cross asked for and was promised. “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’”(Lk 23:42)

There is much more showing that the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom, but the examples given here are enough to alert us to the prominence of the kingdom.

With this context of the prominence of the kingdom, and that the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom, in the next posting we will consider the focus on Jesus as the King to round out the context of his voluntary humiliation.

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